Most first time tattoo customers want to know how much a tattoo will hurt, and many will research the least painful places to get one. Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum — the masochist types who can’t seem to get enough pain. I have respect for any man who can get a Prince Albert piercing, or any woman who can get their sensitive parts pierced, but the people who make up the Brutal Black Project are on a whole other plane of existence within the world of pain.
The Brutal Black Project is comprised of three artists: Valerio Cancellier, Cammy Stewart, and Phillip 3Kreuze. These guys found each other online, and discovered that they are unified in their goals and motivations in wanting to create a tattooing experience that is more important than the tattoo itself. Their beliefs are so strong, that when they put on events, the tattoos are free. Each of them believe that the process is more important than the end result, so the tattoos are often intentionally messy and unaesthetic. In an interview with Vice, Cammy said, “The marks left from the tattoo are only a reminder of what you learned about yourself during the process. To me, the marks left in skin are less important than the marks left in your mind.” As you may have guessed, this is not a normal visit to the tattoo parlor.
The philosophy of the artists is centered around a rebellion against the way tattoos have become, which Cammy describes as “plastic, soulless, and broken down by fashion, the media, and popular culture.” He goes on to say, “To me, this is a big f--k you to what most people believe tattooing to now be.” It’s probably safe to assume he isn’t a fan of the celebrity tattoo news stream, which lately seems to be centered around very small cutesy tattoos. In contrast to the en vogue styles, the Brutal Black Project tattoos are all black, very big, and usually involve the face. Another fun fact, the people receiving these tattoos often need to be physically restrained, because the pain is so intense.
If the pain becomes too intense, they will let you opt out and leave. However, the only time they take a break from the tattooing process is when the client is puking or crying. According to 3Kreuze, the session can last up to four hours. That is a whole lot of pain for a very long time. It takes a special person to willingly sign up for such an agonizing experience, and it takes a special artist to be willing to go through that with someone. It is the old yin and yang; the sadist needs the masochist for this process to work. It is interesting to hear the artists talk about the work. 3Kreuze says, "There's no compassion, no scruples, no sense of empathy — it was a little strange to behave like that, but it's f--king sick to kill these people during the session. Seeing the pain in their eyes, the shaking from their bodies and the mess. It makes me proud that I'm reaching goals together with my clients."
Make no mistake. There will be blood, there will be pain, and there will be a big mess, both physically and psychologically. But when it is all over, you will have a unique, one of a kind tatto — and perhaps more importantly, a unique experience that may just teach you a thing or two about yourself. You’ll never find me on the table, under the needle with one of these guys operating a tattoo machine, but I certainly respect those who do.